The Many Are Called

REFLECTIONS ON MULTITUDE: WAR AND DEMOCRACY IN THE AGE OF EMPIRE

There is no doubt that I would not have under­tak­en to write this book if I had not lived in the midst of the most ide­o­log­i­cal­ly bru­tal of West­ern peo­ple at the century’s end – of a peo­ple who equal­ly deny not only sin­gu­lar­i­ties, but even their own ide­o­log­i­cal phan­tasms and maximizations.

Rein­er Schürmann1)Schürmann, Rein­er. Bro­ken Hege­monies. Trans. by Regi­nald Lil­ly. Indi­ana Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2003. foot­note 72, p.638.

INTRODUCTION

THE EPIGRAPH CITED above was writ­ten around 1990 and is a strong indi­ca­tion of what the Amer­i­can Empire in its dri­ve towards glob­al dom­i­na­tion and ide­o­log­i­cal hege­mo­ny has con­sis­tent­ly demon­strat­ed in its lat­est peri­od of Impe­r­i­al rule – its utter dis­re­gard and con­tempt for oth­er cul­tures, inter­na­tion­al laws, and what­ev­er col­lat­er­al dam­age it leaves in its wake. Since the fall of the Berlin Wall, the col­lapse of the Sovi­et Union, the first Per­sian Gulf War, and the inces­sant pro­nounce­ments of the tri­umphs of neo lib­er­al­ism (best ampli­fied by the the­sis of the end of his­to­ry giv­en by the right Hegelian Frances Fukuya­ma and more recent­ly by the sin­is­ter world design for­mu­lat­ed by the Project for a New Amer­i­can Cen­tu­ry (PNAC)), the North Amer­i­can left has been thrown into anoth­er cri­sis of dis­ar­ray and has anx­ious­ly await­ed a grand counter nar­ra­tive to con­front the omnipresent and mul­ti­far­i­ous tri­umphal­ism of the new right. Liv­ing in a polit­i­cal void, per­haps iron­i­cal­ly cre­at­ed by post­mod­ernist read­ings and prac­tices in the acad­e­my, the left found itself con­fronting a space in which chal­lenges to sys­temic change and trans­for­ma­tive prax­is fell pri­mar­i­ly on deaf ears. Derrida’s Spec­tres of Marx: the State of the Debt, the Work of Mourn­ing, and the New Inter­na­tion­al (1994) was at best a decon­struc­tive analy­sis of the phan­tas­mago­ria of both mer­can­tile and late cap­i­tal­ism, and in order to be more descrip­tive­ly accu­rate, one could eas­i­ly invert the sub­ti­tle to read the debt of the state, the mourn­ing of the work­ing poor, and the lack of a new inter­na­tion­al. How­ev­er, there has emerged an inno­v­a­tive the­o­ret­i­cal work to fill this void, one which offers the promise of a new per­spec­tive on transna­tion­al cap­i­tal­ism, an attempt to think beyond the old­er lan­guage of Impe­ri­al­ism and reveal the New World Order at work.

Michael Hardt and Anto­nio Negri’s Empire (2000) is the syn­the­sis that had been await­ed and holds that the old­er lan­guage of Impe­ri­al­ism is out­mod­ed and cat­e­gor­i­cal­ly inad­e­quate for an analy­sis of the new forms of dom­i­na­tion that transna­tion­al cap­i­tal had tak­en. Hardt and Negri prof­fer a new dis­tinc­tion between the dis­ci­pli­nary soci­eties and the more recent form of the soci­eties of con­trol (a dis­tinc­tion bor­rowed from Deleuze). The dis­ci­pli­nary soci­ety belongs to cen­tral­ized pow­er (i.e. the pow­er of the state, Impe­ri­al­ism) where­as the soci­eties of con­trol (Empire) are dis­persed, decen­tral­ized with mul­ti­ple sites of com­mand, and no site, how­ev­er car­di­nal or van­tage (anal­o­gous to the Ben­thamite panop­ti­con), belong­ing to the para­dox of an ubiq­ui­tous decen­tered pow­er. A cru­cial con­cep­tu­al nodal point that Hardt and Negri see oper­a­tive in the dri­ve towards the ‘‘new world order” is that of biopow­er, which describes the fash­ion in which Empire func­tions as a soci­ety of con­trol which attempts to chron­i­cle and order alter­i­ty and the “Oth­er” into fixed posi­tions that ren­der dis­si­dence impotent.

Tak­ing a cue from Deleuze and Guattari’s Anti Oedi­pus and A Thou­sand Plateaus, these authors find a topos in empire (no mat­ter how despot­ic) of new pos­si­bil­i­ties of polit­i­cal activism. Deter­ri­to­ri­al­iza­tion and nomadic lines of flight become rev­o­lu­tion­ary tac­tics in the age of empire; one no longer employs the tac­tic of sit­u­at­ing one­self against the state (the old­er lan­guage of impe­ri­al­ism) because empire can incor­po­rate such posi­tions. One sees much empir­i­cal evi­dence of reter­ri­to­ri­al­iza­tion in the man­age­ment of rebel­lious forces and rev­o­lu­tion­ary poten­tial par­tic­u­lar­ly in the coop­ta­tion and dilu­tion of hip hop cul­ture in recent years; the chan­nels of rebel­lion have become part and par­cel of main­stream mar­ket econ­o­my. The “mul­ti­tude,” then, becomes an agent of deter­ri­to­ri­al­iza­tion through which rev­o­lu­tion­ary effects which can­not be resi­t­u­at­ed with­in empire can be pro­duced. The ear­ly mod­el for Negri and Hardt’s con­cep­tion of the mul­ti­tude is the 1994 Zap­ati­sa upris­ing against NAFTA in Chi­a­pas. This upris­ing was described as sin­gu­lar and incom­mu­ni­ca­ble, a thor­ough oppo­si­tion to state pow­er with­out any spe­cif­ic pro­gram, a col­lec­tive ener­gy that can­not be con­tained nor mapped for its iden­ti­ty and demands. How­ev­er, this kind of upheaval was not enough for a new rev­o­lu­tion­ary pro­gram; an alter­na­tive par­a­digm was need­ed, one in which new forms of pro­duc­tion and liv­ing labor are to be ground­ed in cre­ativ­i­ty and new use of tools; that is, a polit­i­cal ontol­ogy found­ed on a merg­er of poe­sis and pro­duc­tion, one that does not have a pre­for­mu­lat­ed agen­da but an alter­na­tive which aris­es from unique cir­cum­stances and in which new polit­i­cal con­fig­u­ra­tions are invent­ed. The hope of “pure” polit­i­cal cre­ativ­i­ty, for instance, a polit­i­cal body that emerges from its own self, is the real pos­si­bil­i­ty for change put forth in Empire.

Negri and Hardt will also hold to three cru­cial demands, all of which are indebt­ed to the val­ues of Enlight­en­ment think­ing. They demand uni­ver­sal cit­i­zen­ship (rights of man dis­course) for all, a guar­an­teed income for all, and equal tak­ing and shar­ing of the means of pro­duc­tion (the marx­i­an dis­course of abil­i­ty and needs). All three pre­sup­pose a uni­ver­sal glob­al democ­ra­cy and in its back­ground a “social space” (Kristin Ross) cre­at­ed from the time of the Paris Com­mune of 1871.

All of this to say that Empire, despite its the­o­ret­i­cal bril­liance in ana­lyz­ing the new forms that neo-lib­er­al­ism and glob­al­iza­tion man­i­fest, did not flesh out the pos­si­bil­i­ty of the new exter­mi­nat­ing angel of the glob­al transna­tion- al sys­tem and the con­crete pos­si­bil­i­ty of agency sans an ide­al­ist ide­ol­o­gy. We were giv­en new cat­e­gories for analy­sis and cri­tique but none for prac­tice. The notion of the mul­ti­tude did not have a sub­stan­tive and con­crete the­o­ry of agency, no the­o­ry of class, and ulti­mate­ly we were left hang­ing in the usu­al posi­tion of wait­ing on lefty to be told what is to be done. It is under these cir­cum­stances that the sequel to Empire, Mul­ti­tude: War and Democ­ra­cy in the age of Empire (2004) was written.

FROM INFINITE WAR TO CONDITIONS FOR DEMOCRACY

There­fore the prince should nev­er turn his mind from the study of war; in times of peace he should think about it even more than in wartime.

Machi­avel­li, The Prince2)Machi­avel­li, N. The Prince. Trans. and ed. By Robert M. Adams. Nor­ton crit­i­cal edi­tion. 1992. p.41.

Writ­ten in the style of a por­ten­tous reportage, Mul­ti­tude promis­es a mosa­ic that is the sequel to Empire, an inter­weav­ing of con­cepts and prac­ti­cal rea­son that hints towards action and will address the con­tem­po­rary post 9/11 situation:

Our pri­ma­ry aim is to work out the con­cep­tu­al basis on which a new project of democ­ra­cy can stand.
… Think of the book as a mosa­ic from which the gen­er­al design grad­u­al­ly emerges.3)Hardt.M, and Negri,T. Mul­ti­tude: War and Democ­ra­cy in the Age of Empire. New York: Pen­guin, 2004. p.xvii.

Begin­ning with the new state of war and a long exe­ge­sis on state of excep­tion from Cincin­na­tus the Noble to the U.S. excep­tion­al­ism of Made­line Albright and the cur­rent tight­en­ing of bor­ders, Negri and Hardt point to the para­dox­es of the “new” war and the prodi­gious chal­lenges it pos­es to the real­iza­tion of their project. The sec­tion on War occu­pies the first one-third of the book and allows the authors to recon­struct their descrip­tion of Empire itself and use the “Rev­o­lu­tion in Mil­i­tary Affairs (RMA)” as an extend­ed metaphor for the emer­gence of Empire. This empha­sis on and analy­sis of RMA serves as an antic­i­pa­to­ry moment “ in some ways, the forms of biopo­lit­i­cal pro­duc­tion of the mul­ti­tude.” (Mul­ti­tude 44) In gen­er­al, the “Rev­o­lu­tion in Mil­i­tary Affairs” con­cen­trates on the notion of asym­met­ri­cal con­flict, a new form of dis­persed con­flict and tar­get­ing of pop­u­la­tion in which every­one becomes sus­pect. One can see this today in Iraq, espe­cial­ly in the recent “acci­den­tal” wound­ing of a left­ist Ital­ian jour­nal­ist, Giu­liana Sgrena, and the killing of her secret ser­vice body­guard. To win, the U.S. employs “full spec­trum dom­i­nance,” which is designed to pro­duce sub­mis­sion. Hardt and Negri under­stand that this design is able to com­bine “mil­i­tary pow­er with social, eco­nom­ic, polit­i­cal, psy­cho­log­i­cal, and ide­o­log­i­cal con­trol.” (Mul­ti­tude 55) The RMA, for instance, depends not only on state–of-the-art tech­nol­o­gy but also on the new forms of labor,“ mobile, flex­i­ble, imma­te­r­i­al forms of social labor”. (Mul­ti­tude 44) Essen­tial­ly, it is the mil­i­tary the­o­rists who have dis­cov­ered the con­cept of biopow­er and in their own strange way have under­stood the pro­duc­tion of docile sub­jects (Fou­cault).

The con­cept of biopow­er is an expla­na­tion of how the cur­rent regime’s war machine not only threat­ens us with a con­stant death dri­ve but also “rules over life, pro­duc­ing and repro­duc­ing all aspects of life ” (Mul­ti­tude, 94). It stands “above soci­ety, tran­scen­dent, as a sov­er­eign author­i­ty and impos­es its order” (Mul­ti­tude, 94). These char­ac­ter­is­tics of biopow­er are strik­ing­ly close to the actions of the Bush admin­is­tra­tion itself, and know­ing this, Negri and Hardt, will give a counter posi­tion, called biopo­lit­i­cal pro­duc­tion, as insur­gent to biopow­er. Biopo­lit­i­cal pro­duc­tion is imma­nent to soci­ety (more Spin­ozist) and “cre­ates social rela­tion­ships and forms through col­lab­o­ra­tive forms of labor” (Mul­ti­tude 95). The pow­er of biopo­lit­i­cal pro­duc­tion is drawn from the poten­tial that the insur­gency embod­ies. The mul­ti­tude becomes a poten­tial threat to Empire and, even though Empire uses all its biopow­er against the insur­gent move­ments, ulti­mate­ly, the infi­nite war will reach its lim­its and has­ten the cri­sis intrin­sic to late cap­i­tal­ism and its inces­sant dri­ve for new ter­ri­to­ri­al­i­ties. Although this falls into the old eco­nom­ic deter­min­ism that has con­sis­tent­ly failed the rad­i­cal imag­i­na­tion, it does open a cre­ative pos­si­bil­i­ty for rev­o­lu­tion­ary sub­jec­tiv­i­ty, espe­cial­ly if one con­sid­ers pol­i­tics as war pur­sued by oth­er means in our his­tor­i­cal present; war has become the regime of biopow­er and in this mode becomes indis­tin­guish­able from police activ­i­ty. It is by work­ing with “sur­plus” knowl­edge and skills mold­ed into a real strug­gle against Pow­er that this cre­ativ­i­ty begins to show itself. This cre­ativ­i­ty calls for the multitude’s capac­i­ty for exo­dus and resis­tance, but more impor­tant­ly for its con­stituent pow­er capa­ble of cre­at­ing a new society.

The first sec­tion of Mul­ti­tude sees with­in infi­nite war the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a fresh and enlight­ened emer­gence of democ­ra­cy. The authors schema­tize the hope of regain­ing democracy’s pri­or sig­nif­i­cance (in the sense of 18th cen­tu­ry con­cep­tions) since the end­ing of the cold war. In prob­a­bly one of the more crit­i­cal­ly engaged parts of the book, Hardt and Negri repro­duce four con­tem­po­rary argu­ments con­cern­ing glob­al­iza­tion and the pos­si­bil­i­ty of democ­ra­cy, all of which they find insuf­fi­cient for the project of the multitude.

The first of these is the social demo­c­ra­t­ic claim that democ­ra­cy is hin­dered by glob­al­iza­tion. Glob­al­iza­tion is usu­al­ly defined only in eco­nom­ic terms in this posi­tion, and its valid­i­ty is seri­ous­ly under­mined by 9/11/2001 and by its reduc­tion­ist econ­o­mistic ten­den­cies. The sec­ond posi­tion is that of the lib­er­al cos­mopoli­tan, which claims that glob­al­iza­tion fos­ters democ­ra­cy, and that through greater insti­tu­tion­al and polit­i­cal reg­u­la­tion of economies that are not depen­dent on the old rule of nation states a greater demo­c­ra­t­ic poten­tial is released, one which results in a mul­ti­lat­er­al approach to glob­al­iza­tion with the Unit­ed Nations as the most pow­er­ful instru­ment and arbiter of main­tain­ing this mul­ti­lat­er­al­ism. This posi­tion was obvi­ous­ly unmasked in the March 2003 Unit­ed Nations ses­sions on Iraq by demon­strat­ing the futil­i­ty of speak­ing truth to Pow­er. In the third claim, Unit­ed States glob­al hege­mo­ny is the benev­o­lent heir to Euro­pean impe­ri­al­ism and as the last mil­i­tary super­pow­er becomes the watch­man over the “end of his­to­ry,” with mil­i­tary out­posts strate­gi­cal­ly posi­tioned to max­i­mize the con­trol of resources nec­es­sary to the hyper-con­sump­tive pop­u­la­tions of the “advanced coun­tries”: “Think of Iraq as a mil­i­tary base with a very large oil reserve (it’s the super­star of the future) under­neath– you can’t ask for bet­ter than that.”4)McQuaig, Lin­da. It’s the Crude, Dude: War ‚Big Oil, and the Fight for the Plan­et. Anchor Cana­da, forth­com­ing, 2005. Cita­tion from Fadel Gheit, oil ana­lyst at Oppen­heimer & Co. One may look at The Nation­al Secu­ri­ty Strat­e­gy pam­phlet and the work by Robert Kagan on war for greater insights into this attempt towards glob­al hege­mo­ny (all writ­ten after 9/11/2001).

The fourth posi­tion giv­en on glob­al­iza­tion and democ­ra­cy, the tra­di­tion­al- val­ues con­ser­v­a­tive, focus­es on the cul­tur­al, and its cen­tral thrust is that glob­al­iza­tion threat­ens democ­ra­cy because it threat­ens a con­ser­v­a­tive val­ue sys­tem. Even though there are some sim­i­lar­i­ties to the social demo­c­ra­t­ic posi­tion, the ide­o­logues are quite dif­fer­ent; Pat Buchanan (with char­ac­ter­is­tic xeno­pho­bic force) is the chief spokesper­son for the tra­di­tion­al val­ues argument.

For two rea­sons are these four posi­tions inad­e­quate to a rethink­ing of democ­ra­cy. First, from all of the four dif­fer­ent per­spec­tives, it is the process of glob­al­iza­tion and per­ma­nent glob­al war that throws democ­ra­cy into ques­tion. Although democ­ra­cy has been con­sid­ered to be “in cri­sis” for at least two cen­turies by var­i­ous groups such as lib­er­al aris­to­crats (in the nine­teenth cen­tu­ry and among many thinkers of civ­il soci­ety) and con­tem­po­rary tech­nocrats, today’s sit­u­a­tion calls for a “leap in scale” from the nation- state to the whole globe, and democ­ra­cy must be dis­lodged from its tra­di­tion­al mean­ings. The four argu­ments giv­en ear­li­er do not ade­quate­ly con- front the “scale of the con­tem­po­rary cri­sis of democ­ra­cy” (Mul­ti­tude 236). Sec­ond, it is clear that all of the argu­ments either under­cut or post­pone real democ­ra­cy (rule of every­one by every­one, where the peo­ple rule and the gov­ern­ment obeys). In fact, the lib­er­al aris­to­crat­ic position’s call for lib­er­ty first and then democ­ra­cy fun­da­men­tal­ly becomes the apol­o­gy for the absolute rule of pri­vate prop­er­ty. Kant’s idea of Cos­mopoli­tanism is not ade­quate to the task of think­ing democ­ra­cy from below, and the cur­rent task of the “unfin­ished Demo­c­ra­t­ic project of moder­ni­ty” is a return to eigh­teenth cen­tu­ry con­cep­tions of democ­ra­cy because this era man­i­fest­ed a cri­sis of the prac­tices of democ­ra­cy prompt­ed by anoth­er leap of scale. One might see this cri­sis in terms of “the peo­ple” as a force. New con­cep­tions and prac­tices had to be thought as well as a thor­ough recast­ing of rep­re­sen­ta­tion, and Negri and Hardt find in Max Weber’s three basic types of rep­re­sen­ta­tion (appro­pri­at­ed, free, and instruct­ed) a fresh polit­i­cal task of trans­for­ma­tion, i.e. of chang­ing appro­pri­at­ed forms into more lib­er­al and free forms, which, in turn, are trans­formed into instruct­ed ones which make for stronger con­nec­tiv­i­ty between those rep­re­sent­ed and the representatives.

In their analy­sis of the nine­teenth and ear­ly twen­ti­eth cen­tu­ry social­ist and com­mu­nist tra­di­tions, they show the move­ment of “democ­ra­cy from below” that was intend­ed to neu­tral­ize the notion of the auton­o­my of pol­i­tics. Cit­ing inspi­ra­tions of democ­ra­cy and rep­re­sen­ta­tion tak­en from the Paris Com­mune, Hardt and Negri point towards the “gov­ern­ment of the peo­ple by the peo­ple” (Marx) and the “fuller democ­ra­cy“ (Lenin) that became new avenues for polit­i­cal rep­re­sen­ta­tion and essen­tial­ly the begin­ning of direct democ­ra­cy. These pre­cious moments from these tra­di­tions are to be retained and exam­ined in the light of what they call a Madis­on­ian-Lenin­ist syn­the­sis, a new sci­ence of democ­ra­cy to encounter the tyran­ny of the glob­al order of the twen­ty-first cen­tu­ry: this science’s first objec­tive is to con­sis­tent­ly destroy sov­er­eign­ty (or the Pow­er of the One) in the name and prac­tice of democ­ra­cy (a new Lenin­ist moment, but this time not only abol­ish­ing the state but the entire glob­al order). Coin­cid­ing with this destruc­tion of one rule is the Madis­on­ian moment of cre­at­ing new demo­c­ra­t­ic insti­tu­tion­al struc­tures, which would pro­tect with a sys­tem of checks and bal­ances, rights and guar­an­tees against cor­rup­tion and dis­so­lu­tion. This new sci­ence of democ­ra­cy is built upon “the com­mon,” which empha­sizes the col­lab­o­ra­tive nature of today’s biopo­lit­i­cal pro­duc­tion. Put in oth­er terms, social life is not only pro­duced in com­mon but is also pro­duced in the com­mon, and the cre­ation of the com­mon revers­es the log­ic of pri­vate prop­er­ty (the dri­ve for orig­i­nary accu­mu­la­tion). In this rever­sal a state of sec­ond nature is cre­at­ed, and the mul­ti­tude is the new rev­o­lu­tion­ary sub­jec­tiv­i­ty that is imma­nent with­in this sec­ond nature.

It is debat­able that such a trans­for­ma­tion would come out of “an inten­si­fi­ca­tion of the com­mon” (Mul­ti­tude 213) that is to say, a new human­i­ty. Even though signs of the com­mon abound–the inter­net, con­fronta­tions over who owns genes, who holds patent rights, file shar­ing, decen­tral­ized networks–we can cer­tain­ly ask on the one hand if the con­di­tions for the birth of a trans­formed and tru­ly lib­er­at­ed human­i­ty are fun­da­men­tal­ly there or, on the oth­er hand, is the “com­mon” in its alien­at­ed and high­ly cap­i­tal­ized form sim­ply fod­der for the new right and its designs? The U.S. pres­i­den­tial elec­tion cer­tain­ly demon­strates that a “ Repub­li­can” pro­le­tari­at has been won over, and who is to say a sim­i­lar sce­nario won’t devel­op with the multitude?

THE MULTITUDE AND A VIEW FROM NORTH AMERICA

His­to­ry, con­ceived as pure sci­ence and become sov­er­eign, would con­sti­tute a kind of clos­ing out of the accounts of life for humankind. His­tor­i­cal edu­ca­tion is whole­some and promis­ing for the future only in the ser­vice of a pow­er­ful new life-affirm­ing influ­ence, of a ris­ing cul­ture for example…5)Nietzsche, Fred­erich. On the Advan­tage and Dis­ad­van­tage of His­to­ry for Life trans. by Peter Preuss. Indi­anapo­lis: Hack­ett ‚1980, p.14.

Her­bert Mar­cuse in his 1966 polit­i­cal pref­ace to Eros and Civ­i­liza­tion (1955) wrote that “Today, the fight for life, the fight for Eros, is the polit­i­cal fight.”6)Marcuse, Her­bert. Eros and Civ­i­liza­tion: A Philo­soph­i­cal Inquiry into Freud. Boston: Bea­con Press, 1966, p.xxv. This rad­i­cal state­ment res­onates even more true today, and Hardt and Negri give us an attempt­ed polit­i­cal ontol­ogy of a force, “the ‘always already’ mul­ti­tude” and the pos­si­bil­i­ty of a ‘not yet’ mul­ti­tude whose con­stituent pow­er is found­ed on the rage and love of the his­tor­i­cal present in which the slo­gan, “anoth­er world is pos­si­ble” becomes sig­nif­i­cant. Not only does the mul­ti­tude have the capac­i­ty for exo­dus (Deleuz­ian lines of flight with weapons) and resis­tance but it has also the capac­i­ty to cre­ate a new soci­ety through shared social, expe­ri­en­tial, and infor­ma­tion­al net­works. These new strug­gles are encap­su­lat­ed at the end of Multitude:

We can already rec­og­nize that today time is split between a present that is already dead and a future that is already liv­ing- and the yawn­ing abyss between them is becom­ing enor­mous. In time, an event will thrust us like an arrow into that liv­ing future. This will be the real polit­i­cal act of love.7)Hardt, Michael and Anto­nio Negri. Mul­ti­tude: War and Democ­ra­cy in the Age of Empire New York: Pen­guin, 2004, p.358.

For the authors of Mul­ti­tude the polit­i­cal fight is the biopo­lit­i­cal (the fight for life) against Biopow­er (iron­i­cal­ly, both the fear of and inces­sant dri­ve towards death). How­ev­er, a new con­sti­tu­tive tem­po­ral­i­ty is not artic­u­lat­ed, and one is left in the abyss of the “not yet” tem­po­ral­i­ty that has become a com­mon­place of post­mod­ern pol­i­tics from Der­ri­da to Agam­ben, one that plays upon Heidegger’s dec­la­ra­tion that “Pos­si­bil­i­ty is High­er than Actu­al­i­ty” (Kant’s The­sis on Being) and not on the utopic “not yet” of Ernst Bloch or the mes­sian­ic tem­po­ral­i­ty of Ben­jamin. Although kairos is men­tioned as both the dialec­ti­cal counter weight to the lin­ear accu­mu­la­tion of time and as the authen­tic moment when a deci­sion of prax­is is to be tak­en, no cri­te­ria for mea­sur­ing and eval­u­at­ing nor descrip­tive char­ac­ter­is­tics of this time of rup­ture are giv­en. After such a breath­tak­ing and detailed analy­sis of the con­tem­po­rary war machine, the his­tor­i­cal back­ground and future cri­te­ria of the democ­ra­cy to come, we are caught in the remains of a the­o­ret­i­cal par­a­digm with­out a clear sense of role of cur­rent insti­tu­tions, of labor strug­gles espe­cial­ly in times of “job­less recov­er­ies” (Aronowitz), dimin­ish­ing returns, and a rather roman­ti­cized notion of the poor.

In order to build and con­struct a “ris­ing cul­ture” we must rec­og­nize that we are locat­ed between the Scyl­la of a Gram­s­cian opti­mism of the will and the utopist hope of Ernst Bloch and the Charyb­dis of the man­darin pes­simism of Adorno and his under­stand­ing of the ease in which the cul­ture indus­try assim­i­lates dis­sent, whether it is artis­tic or guer­ril­la war­fare. Mul­ti­tude may be seen as mark­ing this topos of ambi­gu­i­ty and becomes a start­ing point for dis­cus­sion with­in a open end­ed the­o­ret­i­cal matrix that would include recent works by Kojin Karatani (Tran­s­cri­tique: On Kant and Marx) and Stathis Kou­ve­lakis (Phi­los­o­phy and Rev­o­lu­tion: From Kant to Marx). A new tem­po­ral under­stand­ing of the pos­si­bil­i­ty of the polit­i­cal (beyond the ethi­cist notions) today requires a pro­gram of prin­ci­ples and a grasp of pol­i­tics that simul­ta­ne­ous­ly takes hold of the every­day strug­gles and the event of rev­o­lu­tion­ary rup­ture. Hardt and Negri give us a new under­stand- ing of the space we inhab­it in the new world order and the march towards glob­al­iza­tion but do not con­cep­tu­al­ize the new tem­po­ral­i­ty nec­es­sary to over­turn the new behe­moth engulf­ing the globe. From their bird’s eye per- spec­tive, we can await (I would imag­ine) a third vol­ume that engages the ques­tion of the time of revolution.8)Negri, Anto­nio. Time for Rev­o­lu­tion. Trans. by Mat­teo Man­dori­ni. Con­tin­u­um, 2003. In this work Negri begins to devel­op a the­o­ry of con­stituent time but unfor­tu­nate­ly his insights are not sig­nif­i­cant­ly devel­oped in Mul­ti­tude.

But we can seri­ous­ly doubt that a third vol­ume will answer and/or sub­stan- tive­ly address the press­ing ques­tions in North Amer­i­ca of what are the pred­i­cates of new strug­gles in our insti­tu­tions, espe­cial­ly the ques­tion of labor unions; even though they may be con­sid­ered insti­tu­tion­al dinosaurs, they remain a force for major orga­nized actions such as gen­er­al strikes. And we can ask about the role of the “mul­ti­tude” in our edu­ca­tion­al insti­tu- tions, those mired in a “gen­er­a­tion debt” men­tal­i­ty before they become part of the work force. Can this gen­er­a­tion face their grim real­i­ties and become crit­i­cal­ly con­scious of the force of mak­ing rev­o­lu­tion­ary demands upon the social field they inhab­it and the insti­tu­tions of which they are a part? Will there be a con­cert­ed and crit­i­cal acknowl­edge­ment of the civ­il war mate­ri­al­iz­ing in the Unit­ed States?

Marx knew well, as Stathis Kouvelakis9)Kouvelakis, Stathis. Philsos­o­phy and Rev­o­lu­tion: From Kant to Marx, Trans. by G.M. Gosh­gar­i­an. Lon­don: Ver­so. See the remark­ably lucid and orig­i­nal chap­ter 5, pp.232–274. reminds us, that by its entry into the news­pa­pers, by becom­ing a news­pa­per cor­re­spon­dent, Phi­los­o­phy assumes its crit­i­cal mis­sion and becomes world­ly and attuned to every­day strug­gles. In this reflec­tion upon the empir­i­cal field the pol­i­tics of the “mul­ti­tude” eludes rather than con­fronts the con­crete agency need­ed today. By not hav­ing a new the­o­ry of class and evad­ing the exist­ing strug­gles from the “cen­tu­ry of hands” (Rim­baud) and by laud­ing the new cen­tu­ry of brains and its cyber­punk­ish vocab­u­lary and slo­ga­neer­ing, Negri and Hardt have still not pro­duced a viable and sub­stan­tive the­o­ry of his­tor­i­cal agency. Sur­plus knowl­edge is a con­stant for transna­tion­al cap­i­tal but whom does it lib­er­ate? Spinoza’s mul­ti­tude were those with­out church in the sev­en­teenth cen­tu­ry and let’s hope that today’s non-sec­u­lar­ized many do not fall into the neo con­ser­v­a­tive evan­gel­i­cal fix and neo fun­da­men­tal­ist movements.

WORKS CITED

  • Hardt, Michael, and Anto­nio Negri. Empire. Cam­bridge: Har­vard UP, 2000.
  • Hardt, Michael, and Anto­nio Negri. Mul­ti­tude: War and Democ­ra­cy in the Age of Empire. New York:Penguin, 2004.
  • Karatani, Kojin. Tran­s­cri­tique: On Kant and Marx. Trans. by Sabu Kohso. Cambridge:.MIT, 2003. Kou­ve­lakis, Stathis. Phi­los­o­phy and Rev­o­lu­tion: From Kant to Marx. Trans. by G.M. Gosh­gar­i­an. Lon­don: Ver­so, 2003.
  • Machi­avel­li, Nico­lo. The Prince. Trans. and ed. Robert M. Adams. New York: W. W. Nor­ton, 1992.
  • Mar­cuse, Her­bert. Eros and Civ­i­liza­tion: A Philo­soph­i­cal Inquiry into Freud. Boston: Beacon,1966.
  • Negri, Anto­nio. Time for Rev­o­lu­tion. Trans. by Mat­teo Man­dori­ni. Con­tin­u­um, 2003.
  • Niet­zsche, Fred­erich. On the Advan­tage and Dis­ad­van­tage of His­to­ry for Life. Trans. Peter Preuss. Indi­anapo­lis: Hack­ett, 1980.
  • Ross, Kristin. The Emer­gence of Social Space: Rim­baud and the Paris Com­mune. Min­neapo­lis: Uni­ver­si­ty of Min­neso­ta Press, 1989.
  • Schür­mann, Rein­er. Bro­ken Hege­monies. Trans. Regi­nald Lil­ly. Bloom­ing­ton: Indi­ana Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2003.
  • Virno, Pao­lo. A Gram­mar of the Mul­ti­tude. Trans. Isabel­la Berto­let­ti, James Cas­caito and Andrea Cas­son. New York: Semiotext(e), 2004.
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References   [ + ]

1. Schürmann, Rein­er. Bro­ken Hege­monies. Trans. by Regi­nald Lil­ly. Indi­ana Uni­ver­si­ty Press, 2003. foot­note 72, p.638.
2. Machi­avel­li, N. The Prince. Trans. and ed. By Robert M. Adams. Nor­ton crit­i­cal edi­tion. 1992. p.41.
3. Hardt.M, and Negri,T. Mul­ti­tude: War and Democ­ra­cy in the Age of Empire. New York: Pen­guin, 2004. p.xvii.
4. McQuaig, Lin­da. It’s the Crude, Dude: War ‚Big Oil, and the Fight for the Plan­et. Anchor Cana­da, forth­com­ing, 2005. Cita­tion from Fadel Gheit, oil ana­lyst at Oppen­heimer & Co.
5. Nietzsche, Fred­erich. On the Advan­tage and Dis­ad­van­tage of His­to­ry for Life trans. by Peter Preuss. Indi­anapo­lis: Hack­ett ‚1980, p.14.
6. Marcuse, Her­bert. Eros and Civ­i­liza­tion: A Philo­soph­i­cal Inquiry into Freud. Boston: Bea­con Press, 1966, p.xxv.
7. Hardt, Michael and Anto­nio Negri. Mul­ti­tude: War and Democ­ra­cy in the Age of Empire New York: Pen­guin, 2004, p.358.
8. Negri, Anto­nio. Time for Rev­o­lu­tion. Trans. by Mat­teo Man­dori­ni. Con­tin­u­um, 2003. In this work Negri begins to devel­op a the­o­ry of con­stituent time but unfor­tu­nate­ly his insights are not sig­nif­i­cant­ly devel­oped in Mul­ti­tude.
9. Kouvelakis, Stathis. Philsos­o­phy and Rev­o­lu­tion: From Kant to Marx, Trans. by G.M. Gosh­gar­i­an. Lon­don: Ver­so. See the remark­ably lucid and orig­i­nal chap­ter 5, pp.232–274.
Michael Pelias

Posted by Michael Pelias

Michael Pelias teaches philosophy from the ancients to the moderns at Long Island University - Brooklyn, and is the co-managing editor of Situations. He is a board member of the Institute for the Radical Imagination and a co-host of the Manhattan cable TV show, The Radical Imagination. His scholarly work includes a long study and film script on the 17th century philosopher Spinoza, and an ongoing project on the history of philosophical materialism from Epicurus to Marx, as well as excavations of post-World War II French philosophy.

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